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Old Dec 12, 2012, 11:27 AM   #1
pgiguere1
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Forum theme and icons feel outdated. Time to ditch vBulletin 3?

I always find it weird that MacRumors has so much active forum members (773k, not counting the ones lurking and not signing up) and revolves around a tech company that puts so much attention to design, yet every time I come here I feel like I'm looking at some old inactive forums from a decade ago.

The template and color scheme don't look very good, but not that bad either. It's minimalist enough that it doesn't show its age. I don't think that light grey and lavender go well together, but I can live with it.

I think that the worst offenders are actually the icons.

Starting with smilies:
Also, those formatting options icons:
Buttons:
And those various icons:

Those simply don't look like they belong on a tech forum from 2012.

From what I understand, MacRumors uses vBulletin 3 for the forums, and they're still using the default template which has been designed in 2004. They seem to have some control over the theme colors and icons they use (that Apple logo smiley probably wasn't there originally) but I don't know to what extent. They're probably limited to using .gifs and CSS2, which doesn't help the situation.

Perhaps the best idea would be to simply upgrade to a modern version of vBulletin.

Here's what the default theme in vBulletin 5 looks like: (Click to enlarge)

Thumb resize. Thumb resize.

Thumb resize. Thumb resize.

That already looks a lot more modern, and if you want to customize it further more, there are loads of options in the admin control panel. You can also upload your own PNG icons / smileys which will of course look better than those old gifs.

However, vBulletin 5 is not officially released. You can already buy it ($209) and use one if its final beta releases, but the gold version is only expected in the coming weeks. That may be a good opportunity to upgrade given that upgrading from v3 to v5 directly is supported and that this has to happen one day or another. New vBulletin versions only come out once in 4 years and I certainly hope they won't keep that outdated theme on MacRumors until early 2017...

It seems that MacRumors has some pretty decent designers seeing their recent banners on the front page (Christmas sales, Pre-event roundups, etc.) and I'm sure they could come up with something beautiful if they weren't limited to using old standards like CSS2 and GIFs.

Of course, upgrading to a forums platform that is 8 year more recent will also bring lots of new functionalities, not just a more modern design.

What do you think?

Am I the only one getting tired of this outdated forums look or would you also like to feel like you're actually looking at a highly-active Apple forums from 2012, not 2002?

Last edited by pgiguere1; Dec 12, 2012 at 11:49 AM.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 11:38 AM   #2
arn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pgiguere1 View Post
I always find it weird that MacRumors has so much active forum members (773k, not counting the ones lurking and not signing up) and revolves around a tech company that puts so much attention to design, yet every time I come here I feel like I'm looking at some old inactive forums from a decade ago.
Yep. I agree the theme is outdated. Moving from vB 3 to 4 or 5 is not an easy decision to make. Everything I've heard has warned against going to vB 4, which is why we sit at vB 3. vB 5, I'm not sure is much better. But it's not officially out yet, so it may be too early to say.

The forum theme can be updated independent of the underlying version of vB. And we are working on it, slowly.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 11:55 AM   #3
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It wouldn't be "home" anymore with too many cosmetic changes... Just kidding, I guess it does look a little outdated compared to some sites.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 12:42 PM   #4
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I (and I know I've said it before) think vB 4.2 is a very mature forum script, and would be a worthy upgrade, provided you had the man power to upgrade all of the modifications to vb 4, or provide that same functionality in some way.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 04:57 PM   #5
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I find many newer designs laughable & uncomfortable.

iThink the content is much more important, and i think, Arn, Eric, Jordan and so on know this.
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Old Dec 13, 2012, 07:31 PM   #6
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Yep. I agree the theme is outdated. Moving from vB 3 to 4 or 5 is not an easy decision to make. Everything I've heard has warned against going to vB 4, which is why we sit at vB 3. vB 5, I'm not sure is much better. But it's not officially out yet, so it may be too early to say.

The forum theme can be updated independent of the underlying version of vB. And we are working on it, slowly. Image
I was on another fairly big site that migrated to 4.x and it was not a fun event. I helped with the testing and bug finding on a test site for us and when we went live it was not as fun. And even then people got very angry because the site looked different.

People asked for updated look but when you give it to them the ones that didn't want updated look came out in larger numbers wanting it to go back to how it looked before. The look even lost several visitors for a while. Till they tweaked it to look the same as the old way.

It's a fine line. The ones that don't say a thing and like the design are a greater number than those looking for updated look.
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Old Dec 13, 2012, 07:37 PM   #7
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The forums being functional is far more important than updated icons.
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Old Dec 13, 2012, 08:10 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jessica. View Post
The forums being functional is far more important than updated icons.
Very true
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Old Dec 13, 2012, 09:16 PM   #9
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I find this to look very comfortable and functional as it is. I'd much rather keep using these than any of the screens you've posted.

Even though version 3 is technically kind of old, these forums work great. Why change it?
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Old Dec 14, 2012, 08:52 PM   #10
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Looks fine, as far as is known works fine. So why update? Unless there is a very compelling reason for upgrading I don't bother. No upside besides minimal eye candy, terror and heartache on the downside not to mention the time spent. It's the content that counts.
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Old Dec 15, 2012, 07:38 AM   #11
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I'd welcome a slightly more modern design. Although it's not hideous, MR could definitely do with being updated.
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Old Dec 15, 2012, 09:52 AM   #12
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I'd welcome a slightly more modern design. Although it's not hideous, MR could definitely do with being updated.
I agree. MR doesn't look like an apple forum.
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 03:28 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AQUADock View Post
I agree. MR doesn't look like an apple forum.
What do you mean? What does an Apple forum look like? It looks like a forum, that talks about Apple.

Meets those requirements.
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 01:39 AM   #14
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What do you mean? What does an Apple forum look like? It looks like a forum, that talks about Apple.

Meets those requirements.
Apple products in general have good aesthetics both software and hardware, MacRumors doesn't reflect that.
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 03:48 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AQUADock View Post
Apple products in general have good aesthetics both software and hardware, MacRumors doesn't reflect that.
From what we've been told, vBulletin 4 is extremely unreliable and 5 isnt out yet. They don't seem to offer much more functionality. I'd prefer the current stability over some new eye-candy.
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 04:07 AM   #16
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From what we've been told, vBulletin 4 is extremely unreliable and 5 isnt out yet. They don't seem to offer much more functionality. I'd prefer the current stability over some new eye-candy.
You don't have to change vBulletin, you can theme the current one.
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 08:38 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr McKay View Post
What do you mean? What does an Apple forum look like? It looks like a forum, that talks about Apple.

Meets those requirements.
Too many buttons. An Apple forum should have just one button.. maybe none.

Maybe it should be gesture-based. I know whenever I read any of the fiery Apple-Samsung threads, all I'm doing is making gestures at the screen.....
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 09:13 AM   #18
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The appearance doesn't bother me a bit. Content's more important.
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 09:43 AM   #19
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Yep. I agree the theme is outdated. Moving from vB 3 to 4 or 5 is not an easy decision to make. Everything I've heard has warned against going to vB 4, which is why we sit at vB 3. vB 5, I'm not sure is much better. But it's not officially out yet, so it may be too early to say.

The forum theme can be updated independent of the underlying version of vB. And we are working on it, slowly. Image
Do _not_ go with vB 4 or vB 5.

Seriously. If you care about your forums, do not use them. They are a world of hurt.

XenForo or Invision are way better options. The fact that vB is owned by a completely morally wrong company is one reason, but the software is just terribly coded. vB5 still has loads of vB3 code, just made even more of a mess.

I own and run a lot of forums - we saw massive losses in numbers with vB4. vB5 will be even worse as the entire thread and post id scheme is rewritten with no way to import old numbers, so every thread ID will become invalid. This is one of the major problems with the software, and they have already said it wont be changed. Basically upgrading is pretty much going to kill a site in seconds. Every single link to every single thread becomes a 404 - and it's not a simple case of remapping id's or mod_rewriting things to the correct location.
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 12:46 PM   #20
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Do _not_ go with vB 4 or vB 5.

Seriously. If you care about your forums, do not use them. They are a world of hurt.

XenForo or Invision are way better options. The fact that vB is owned by a completely morally wrong company is one reason, but the software is just terribly coded. vB5 still has loads of vB3 code, just made even more of a mess.
Ya, unfortunately, XenForo seems to have fizzled out, at least last I payed attention. There was a lot of uncertainty about its future.

No, I think we're sticking with vb3. And we are working on a new theme and some other improvements.

arn
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 12:48 PM   #21
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Yep. I agree the theme is outdated. Moving from vB 3 to 4 or 5 is not an easy decision to make. Everything I've heard has warned against going to vB 4, which is why we sit at vB 3. vB 5, I'm not sure is much better. But it's not officially out yet, so it may be too early to say.

The forum theme can be updated independent of the underlying version of vB. And we are working on it, slowly. Image
To be honest I like the current theme. If you update it, leave us the option to switch to this theme if possible.
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 12:55 PM   #22
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I like the way it is. Everything works. If you change something everybody will start to complain.

The content is what needs to change and is changing just fine.
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Old Dec 18, 2012, 03:40 AM   #23
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Ya, unfortunately, XenForo seems to have fizzled out, at least last I payed attention. There was a lot of uncertainty about its future.

No, I think we're sticking with vb3. And we are working on a new theme and some other improvements.

arn
The XenForo vs vB trial should be going ahead early 2013. There's no way in hell vB will win. Their claims are a total sham. I've followed the lawsuit somewhat on and off over the last year, and they really have no case to answer. Even vB staff have testified that there is no similarities in the software.

It was all done by Internet Brands to try and cause damage to XenForo. It failed.

Kier from XenForo did confirm last week that they will be continuing development at full pace once the trial is resolved. It's certainly not going to vanish.

Glad to see you're sticking with vB3 - cant go far wrong with it! The current layout/theme is fine as far as I can see. The only (very minor) change I'd like is better themed buttons instead of the default ones.

Oh and more smileys
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Old Dec 21, 2012, 07:52 PM   #24
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In this proposed new theme, will the header etc change? Or is it just the actual forum content design, because if it's the latter, good because that really needs to change.

The footer is also terrible and messy.

I understand that it's a pain to upgrade forums, and I've had this discussion before, but I too believe that vB4 is very good as far as forums go, and I don't see any issues with it usability wise.
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Old Dec 21, 2012, 08:59 PM   #25
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Another "vote" for leaving it alone. Why the urgency to change everything all the time? If things were broken, I would understand, but this isn't broken at all.
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